Leipheimer leads Contador over the Col d’Aubisque. Contador now leads the Tour
The Tour doesn’t need a spectacular backdrop with the latest news…
Michael Rasmussen has been booted out of the Tour by his Rabobank team, ending his nine consecutive days in yellow. He has been removed from his team after a dispute about his location during training earlier in the year. The Dane received two warnings from the UCI for missing out-of-competition tests.
“I have no idea what I should do or where I will go,” Rasmussen told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. “This is an enormous blow for me, and also for all the guys from the Rabo team. They’re devastated.”
For the rest of the Rabobank team, it’s business as normal for stage 17. “All our riders (minus Rasmussen) will be on the start of the stage,” Erik Breukink the Rabobank sporting director told Reuters.
Rabobank rider Michael Boogerd is the only rider deciding not to start. Speaking to Sporza, a Belgian television channel, he said: “To ride for four more days in the Tour for nobody? I won’t do that. I don’t know what I should think of all this. I want to go home immediately.”
The news follows Rasmussen’s win on stage 16, where he managed to further extend his lead by attacking in the last kilometre. Finishing the stage with nearly a three minute lead over nearest rival Alberto Contador, Rasmussen had all but sealed the 2007 Tour de France. Following the shocking news late on Wednesday, there will be no yellow jersey on stage 17, instead the jersey going to the overall leader at the end of the stage.
Presently, Alberto Contador now leads the Tour, with Cadel Evans just two minutes behind. The Australian is now withing striking distance of the Spanish rider, but it remains to be seen whether Evans can make the time up on Saturday’s time trial. Trailing Evans by 53 seconds, Levi Leipheimer can also hope to get higher up the podium than the third place he currently holds.
Commenting on this latest episode, Christian Prudhomme said: “This (Rasmussen being sacked) is the best piece of news we’ve had in the last eight days,” adding: “We cannot say that Rasmussen cheated, but his flippancy and his lies on his whereabouts had become unbearable.”
The director of the race is confident about its future, however, adding: “There are improvements. Ten years ago, the riders were sitting before the start to protest against dope tests; today, they sit because they want to protest against doping.”
“I don’t accept that the sport is in crisis,” UCI president Pat McQuaid told the BBC. “I can see the sport is going through a difficult period but that is a period of change and I can see at the far end of that period the sport will come out of it a lot better and a lot stronger,
Stage 17, 188km from Pau to Castelsarrasin, will offer some much needed respite after the tough mountain stages through the Pyrenees.